Green Party pledge: plant 10 billion trees by 2050

A Green Party federal government would commit to planting 10 billion trees by 2050 as part of its climate-action plan.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was in Greater Victoria Friday to make the announcement. She was joined by David Merner, the Green candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke. May is running in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

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The party proposes planting 30,000 hectares every year until 2050, for a total of 10 billion trees over 30 years to reduce carbon and recover vast areas of land devastated by wildfires across Canada.

May announced her plan while standing in a small meadow at Gorge Park, surrounded by trees, but metres from a major traffic artery.

“Replanting forests is critical,” she said. Restoring forest ecosystems is critical. Protecting old-growth-forests is critical. They hold immense amounts of carbon as a sink.”

She didn’t provide specifics on how much the program would cost, but said the party has determined that trees can be planted for “relatively small amounts.

May said the Green plan also involves employing jobless forest workers to plant seedlings, remove fire-charred trees and cut fire-break areas to protect communities from future wildfires.

“Traditionally, the federal government doesn’t have much of a role in forest management. It’s a provincial area of responsibility,” she said. “But given the climate emergency, the federal government must do more. We have forest fires that have burned over tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of hectares, and they’ve not been replanted.”

Wildfires in B.C. in 2017 and 2018 saw the provincial government declare a state of emergency in both summers as the blazes destroyed record amounts of forests and forced evacuations of thousands of people.

The wildfires in B.C.’s Interior consumed a record 13,500 square kilometres of land in 2018, eclipsing the 2017 record of 12,000 square kilometres.

May said Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to plant two billion trees falls short. May also called Trudeau’s plan to fund the tree-planting pledge with oil-pipeline dollars “unacceptable.”

“It’s a good thing to plant two billion trees,” she said. “It’s not nearly enough and it’s quite wrong to say you’ll fund it by buying a pipeline.”

The Greens have promised to cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

Trees are one of the most effective strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change, according to a recent report published in Science magazine. They absorb carbon from the atmosphere and convert it to plant material through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen in the process.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

— With files from The Canadian Press

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